Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Debate a Bubble - Champagne brands – How to find the right one for you

Debate a Bubble - Champagne brands – How to find the right one for you

Link to Debate a Bubble - Champagne News and Reviews

Champagne brands – How to find the right one for you

Posted: 10 May 2010 11:36 PM PDT

Henriet Bazin dégustation Champagne – for many people just the very mention of the word conjures up images of luxury, elegance and romance.

Many people believe that there are just a hand-full of famous champagne brands, but in fact there are almost 5,000 different champagne makers. They're all unique in their way and many of them produce superb wine that rival better known champagnes, but faced with such a wide choice, how to you decide? Here are some quick pointers to help you make the right decision for you.

There are four things that determine the quality and style of a champagne and that you should know before you choose a champagne:
•    What grapes were used and in what proportions?
•    What was the quality of the grapes used?
•    How long has the champagne been aged?
•    How sweet is it?

Some of this information can be found on the label. For the rest you'll have to ask the people in the shop – they should be able to tell you. If they can't, go to another shop!

Champagne can be made with 3 grape varieties: one white, Chardonnay, and two black, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The grapes can be blended together in whatever proportions the wine maker chooses, but this choice makes a big difference to the end result.

It's common to describe grapes in terms of smells and tastes, but for some people it's helpful to think of them as colours in an artist's palette or instruments in an orchestra. When you mix colours and sounds together you often get something that is more than just the sum of the parts.

Chardonnay:  generally light in style ( this doesn't mean lacking in flavour ). It's sometimes described as ' elegant', or 'feminine' and is characterised by flavours and aromas of citrus fruit and floral notes such as blossom.

If Chardonnay were a colour it would be bright yellow or vivid white. It's the flute or violin of the orchestra.

Pinot Noir: brings more body and power to the champagne together with flavours and aromas of red fruits such as cherry, blackcurrant and strawberry.

Pinot Meunier: brings aromas of apples and pears together with a fresh fruity quality that makes a champagne easy to drink and soft in the mouth.

These two black grapes are the bass notes – the trombones and drums of the orchestra, or the rich reds, blues and greens of the artist.

Any good chef will tell you that to make a great dish you must start with great ingredients – it's the Le Gras & Haas same with the grapes in champagne.

There are 3 grades of quality:
The top 5 % of the vineyards are called Grand Cru ( you'll see this on the label if it applies )
The next 15% are designated as Premier Cru ( also on the label)
The rest are classified as Cru ( if you don't see Grand or Premier Cru on the label, then the blend is an ordinary Cru )

When different qualities are mixed together the quality of the overall blend is determined by the   lowest quality element, even if there's only a tiny amount of that lower quality ingredient. So a blend of 98% Grand Cru, 1% Premier Cru and  1% Cru, is not entitled to be called either Grand Cru or Premier Cru. It all has to be called just plain Cru

More bottles ageing at Krug 19th Feb 2010  Almost never mentioned on the label but nevertheless one of main factors determining quality.

The critical thing is the time the champagne spends ageing on the lees ( yeast sediment ) in the cellar in France before it is sold.

15 months is the legal minimum ageing on lees for a champagne, but this is barely time enough for the round rich flavours to develop and for the champagne to loose it's young, acidic edge.

In practice 2.5 years, or 3 is better and if you can find a champagne that is aged even longer, so much the better.

N.B  this is not at all the same thing as the time you keep the bottle after you have bought it and the best thing, unless you have a superb cellar in your home, is not to keep champagne longer than a year or two at most after you buy it.

By the end of the champagne making process the champagne in the bottle is bone dry – too dry for most  Lanson Carte Ivoire people's taste - so a small amount of liquid sugar is added to make the champagne more acceptable to the consumer's expectations. The more sugar you add, the sweeter the champagne.

Depending on how sweet a tooth you have, what the occasion is and what food you may be eating with the champagne, you'll want a champagne with a different level of sweetness. Fortunately this is always indicated on the label if you know what to look for.

Most champagne is fairly dry – this style is called Brut and you'll see this word on the label

 If you like something sweeter, look for the words Demi-Sec on the label.

On the other hand if a really dry champagne is your favourite then you should look for the words Extra Brut or Brut Nature.

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